The NHL trade deadline has come and gone for another year, with teams that consider themselves contenders having loaded up for the stretch run while the league’s basement dwellers sold off the last of their valuable pieces to build up some draft capital and restock the prospect cupboards for the future.
The Montreal Canadiens, for example, were happy to sell off veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk in return for a draft pick while simultaneously allowing one of the league’s most respected veterans to chase that elusive first ever Stanley Cup. Ditto for Patrick Marleau, who was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Penguins by the San Jose Sharks.
One veteran the Sharks weren’t able to extend that courtesy to was 40-year-old centre Joe Thornton, who had his name pop up in rumours leading up to the deadline but ultimately stayed put with the California club.
Thornton has been with the Sharks organization since 2005, but if it were up to him he would’ve relished the opportunity for one more run at hockey’s greatest prize.
“Obviously I was willing to go somewhere, and try to win my first Stanley Cup,” Thornton said to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic. “I’ve been dreaming about that ever since I can remember and it just didn’t come to fruition, for whatever reason. I wanted to get something back for the Sharks obviously to help them continue this process with young guys. It just didn’t work out.”
The Sharks, who have been close to perennial contenders for the better part of a decade, have struggled throughout the year and are decidedly not a part of the Western Conference playoff race with 20 games remaining in their season. They are 26-32-4, a full 14 points back of the final wild card playoff spot with four teams between them and the 8th seeded Arizona Coyotes.
Despite Thornton’s decade-and-a-half of loyalty to San Jose, the Cup remains the reason people play the game, and he’s aware that the opportunities to lift it are finite.
“I’m still here, and still a Shark, which I’m happy to be. But I wanted another shot at the Cup. Obviously, I’m getting a little bit older. It’s not my last hurrah, I still think I’ve got more years left. But as you get older you realize you only have so many shots at this thing. It would have been nice to at least have a chance,” Thornton said. “I wanted a shot, you know? Believe it or not. I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years, so I wanted another shot at it. I wanted to get something (for the Sharks) in return. It just didn’t work out. Back to the grind, and that’s how it is.”
So Jumbo Joe remains a Shark for the rest of this season, and from the way he spoke he doesn’t expect it to be his last. The suitors for his services next year — when he will be 41 — remain to be seen, as his play has slowly declined entering his 40’s. Through 62 games this season he has scored four goals while chipping in 23 assists.
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